Crumpacker: What We Learned - 2/5/18

Feb. 5, 2018

By John Crumpacker, #WCChoops Columnist

When the confetti flutters down on the West Coast Conference men's tournament champion the night of March 6 at the Orleans Arena, several teams around the league will not be finished playing basketball.

There will be more hoops to be played by teams in the top half of the WCC standings.

Based on the most recent RPI numbers, Saint Mary's (24) and Gonzaga (46) will be moving on to the NCAA Tournament, regardless of which WCC powerhouse ends up winning the tournament in Las Vegas. The No. 11 Gaels are 23-2 overall and riding an 18-game winning streak, while the national power Zags, ranked No. 12, are 21-4 and 11-1.

Barring an unforeseen late-season collapse, both teams will be in the big tournament, as they should be. Saint Mary's is one of the most efficient teams in the country with a pair of seniors from the Land Down Under who are among the best at their positions in Division I in center Jock Landale and point guard Emmett Naar.

Gonzaga, meanwhile, has a richly-deserved national reputation and was in the NCAA championship game a year ago. No team in the country can match the offensive balance of coach Mark Few's team with six players scoring in double figures. Sophomore forward Rui Hachimura, who comes off the bench in most games, is the most physically imposing player on the roster and will likely be the first Japanese-born player to be drafted by an NBA team.

But wait, there's more!

BYU, San Diego, San Francisco and Pacific are all working on good seasons at or near the top half of the WCC standings. The Cougars, 18-7 overall, and the Toreros, 15-9, could be headed for the NIT if both hold form. The Tigers are a game below .500 (12-13) while the Dons are a game above even par (13-12) and could be tabbed by one of the lesser postseason tournaments like the CBI.



Ask a player or coach if they want to keep playing and coaching and the answer will be 100 percent in the affirmative. That could mean six WCC teams will be hooping it up after all the confetti is swept up in the Orleans Arena as night turns to day on March 7.

Securing a postseason bid for Pacific and San Diego would represent significant progress for the programs and their young coaches, Lamont Smith of USD in his third year and Damon Stoudamire of Pacific in his second.

What We Learned

  1. It's all over. Unless a sudden rift in the Earth swallows him up, Landale will be named the WCC's Player of the Year. The 6-foot-11 Gael has gotten better in each of his four seasons in Moraga and is one of only two players in the nation averaging more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game (22.8, 10.8). If he does indeed win POY, it will be a tribute to his dedication to his craft as well as the coaching he's received from Randy Bennett and his staff.
  2. Is there a better candidate for Coach of the Year in the conference than Pacific's Stoudamire? He has the Tigers in a tie for third place with BYU at 7-5 with an overall mark of 12-13. Compare those numbers to last season, when Pacific was 11-22 and 4-14 in Stoudamire's first season in Stockton. It's often said that a coach shows the most improvement in his third season. If that's so, things are looking up for Pacific.
  3. Saint Mary's has a decent shot at running the table the rest of the way in the regular season. The Gaels are working on a program-best 18 straight victories, including 13 in a row on the road. In its six remaining games, Saint Mary's is home for three and on the road for three. The road games all look winnable - Loyola Marymount, USF, Portland - as do the last two home games, Pepperdine and Santa Clara. The other home game, of course, is on the 10th vs. Gonzaga, probably still smarting from a rare loss to the Gaels last month at the McCarthey Center.

All-Zero Team
I suppose it's debatable whether zero is a number or simply a representation of a lack of a number. However, there is no debate as to the presence of zeros on the uniforms of players around the WCC. Watching as many conference games as I do, it piqued my curiosity as to which teams have players with 0 on the fronts and backs of their uniforms.

As it turns out, they all do. Every team in the WCC has a player in the zero-sum game. Saint Mary's even has a 0 and a 00, bringing to 11 the number of players around the conference whose jersey numbers add up to ... nothing.

In the spirit of whimsy, we present the All-Zero Team:
0 - Silas Melson, G, Gonzaga
0 - Souley Boum, G, San Francisco
0 - Jahlil Tripp, F, Pacific
0 - Isaiah Pineiro, F, San Diego
00 - Tanner Krebs, G Saint Mary's

Off the bench, it's 0 Eli Scott, F, Loyola Marymount; 0 Jashire Hardnett, G, BYU; 0 Udenyi Amadi, G, Pepperdine.

Stat Line of the Week 
Sometimes you just can't ignore the elephant in the room. You can try to get cute or clever or contrary but when something is so large and obvious, it cannot be ignored. Thus, Saint Mary's Landale gets the SLOTW for his monster game at San Diego. The probable Player of the Year in the WCC had 34 points on 15-of-22 shooting, 18 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block.

The Gaels needed their big man to come up big in what was 65-62 victory over a game USD team.

Others in consideration for SLOW were Pacific's Tripp, who had what for him was a typical game vs. Pepperdine - 9 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals; BYU's Yoeli Childs, who had 15 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block Thursday vs. LMU; Portland's D'Marques Tyson, with 22 points on 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range on Saturday vs. LMU.

Tweet of the Week

Quote of the Week
"He was so attuned to what the other team was doing offensively. He was our best defensive player. He could run our defensive practices.''

- That's analyst and former USD coach Brad Holland, on current Toreros coach Lamont Smith.

Follow the three dots... 
There were some "overtakes'' in the WCC last week. USF's Frankie Ferrari overtook Saint Mary's Naar in assists-to-turnovers ratio, 3.1 to 3.0, and Pacific's Namdi Okonkwo overtook Portland's Philipp Hartwich in blocks per game, 2.7 to 2.5. ... Speaking of Naar, he had an uncharacteristic nine turnovers at San Diego. He's still averaging 9.0 assists per game. Even the great ones cough up a fur ball on occasion. ... Eleven players in the WCC are shooting .500 or better on their field goal attempts. ... It was Steve Nash T-shirt giveaway on Saturday night at the Leavey Center when Santa Clara played old rival USF. ... It pays to make your free throws. The top four teams in the conference - Saint Mary's, Gonzaga, BYU and Pacific - are in the top four in free throw accuracy, from the Gaels' .774 to the Tigers .722.

John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards. Crumpacker has been covering #WCChoops since the 2014-15 season.


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